Loose Canons: Jane Yonge
Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Jane Yonge has had a busy few months. The Wellington-based theatre maker and director recently brought her award-winning play The Basement Tapes to the Basement Theatre in Auckland the week after she opened her production of Victor Rodger's At the Wake at Circa Theatre in Wellington. And this coming week she brings her satire WEiRdO which last year saw an acclaimed season at BATS, to the Basement Theatre.
In 2015 Jane graduated with a Master of Theatre Arts (MTA) in Directing from Victoria University and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and went on to direct Hetero-performative in the Auckland Pride Festival 2016 and Page Turners in the New Zealand Festival 2016. Last year Jane won Best Director at the Wellington Theatre Awards for The Basement Tapes. In 2016, with funding from BATS Theatre’s STAB Lab programme, she researched the oral histories of one of Wellington’s most notorious streets, Haining Street and she's using these findings to develop a work about early and current NZ Chinese identity. One day Jane will find a way to turn this awkward, close, and fascinating subject into a show.
Fear of the dark
It’s probably because of daylight savings. Season change. That slow descent into winter. Regardless, I remembered recently that I’m afraid of the dark. It’s the ultimate unknown. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night. Don’t wake anyone up, don’t turn on the lights. The mirror in the bathroom: don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look. Look. Everything looks different in the dark, especially your own face. Which suddenly is not your face anymore. It’s taken on another form, it’s morphed. Use the fear, harness it. You can’t fail at being scared.
My Mother's love for Chinese horror films
When I was eight I wasn’t allowed to watch Roald Dahl’s The Witches – apparently it would give me nightmares. But then I’d creep out of my bedroom in the middle of the night and find my mother watching Chinese horror films. Roald Dahl had nothing on these scary-as-fuck movies.
There were always ghosts – women – who had been wronged in some way, usually unmarried young women who’d died prematurely. I have limited knowledge of Chinese folklore, but Chinese ghosts are usually dead ancestors worshipped by their offspring. But wandering, wild, monstrous, grotesque female ghosts have no place in the family system so they haunt the living.
I felt sad for the ghosts – probably and unknowingly because of the patriarchal systems of oppression that caused them to be ghosts in the first place – but at the same time I was oddly empowered by how boss they were. They were immortal, they had supernatural powers, and they fucked shit up. At eight years old, these ghosts changed up my notions of Chinese stereotypes. NB: my mother died of cancer on my twenty-third birthday. I do not believe that she is a Chinese ghost.
The Mint Chicks
I remember The Mint Chicks from the 2005 Big Day Out. They performed on the Green Stage, or was it the Essential Stage? Either way they made my teenage brain explode with their spandex gold unitards. They climbed the metal structures of the stage, wielding microphones and chainsaws. I’d seen them twice already at the Grey Lynn Hall but this was next level. This was coming-of-age stuff. It was an arthouse-pop-punk-psychedelic wonderland that mixed well with my pre-loaded cocktail of several bottles of Redbull syrup. And the music thudding in my bones told me that I didn’t have to take crap from no one, and that I had permission to be as weird as I wanted to be. I may be crazy but I’m not dumb…
If you haven’t seen Get Out, you must. Written and directed in 2017 by Jordan Peele and winner of an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, this movie combines comedy, satire, horror, and racist themes into one hot, but very slick mess. Peele’s film manages to be highly entertaining with pointed political commentary. It’s not didactic, and it’s not trying to smash messages into my face. I’m drawn in and I’m laughing.
In 2013 I moved from Auckland to Wellington. I hated it. The weather was shit. The layout of the city made me feel claustrophobic. There was no 95bfm and no decent Chinese restaurant. But I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did because there are some great things about Wellington.
It’s beautiful, I walk everywhere, and I’ve discovered some damn fine people here. I work for the City Arts & Events Team at Wellington City Council. They are incredible. There are a whole bunch of theatre practitioners in Wellington doing amazing and important work. During the summer just gone, I finally swam at Oriental Bay. It was only a little cold. I can’t deny this place influences me. Maybe one day I’ll move back home to Auckland. Maybe.
WEiRdO runs from 17-21 April at the Basement Theatre. Tickets available here.